How To Choose the Right Types of Charts in 3 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published January 3, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Infographics are helpful in many industries because they allow professionals to tell persuasive stories by combining data, text and visuals. Putting thought into your presentation is essential in creating clarity to boost your readers' understanding of your message. Learning how to choose the right type of chart for your content can help you simplify complex concepts, strengthen your persuasive claims and highlight key points. In this article, we list the different types of data charts and explain how to choose an ideal one depending on your requirements.

Types of data charts

There are many types of data charts available for use depending on your industry and goals, such as:

Icon charts

Icon charts use percentages or fractions to inform your readers about the magnitude of certain statistics. This type of chart offers two color options, with the primary color representing the data ratio. An icon chart also helps you simplify data by making it more engaging, memorable and visually attractive.

Pictograms

A pictogram has a matrix of icons, with one of its icons representing either a group of items or a single item. When using a pictogram, consider using round numbers for statistics, such as 100 or 1,000, to help people understand your message easily. An example of an effective pictogram is a smartphone with a red circle and a slash around it, signifying no use of phones.

Bar charts

A bar chart is a type of chart that displays data using rectangular bars. It offers a great way to represent easily understandable data to your audience. When using a bar chart, ensure your charts have clear labels for people to understand what they represent and begin the axis at a zero value for a progressive comparison. You can also opt for a few color combinations when using this chart to draw the audience's attention where you want.

Bubble charts

Bubble charts are ideal when your data has large gaps in between them or when they have outliers. These charts display three-dimensional data, with the third data series determining the size. When using this chart, you can label all the values of the bubbles clearly to emphasize particular values.

Read more: A Guide to Bubble Charts

Pie charts

Pie charts are ideal for comparing parts of a unit. You may better ensure your pie charts accurately compare with the whole by using accurate ratios and clear colors. Try to keep the pie charts simple and use 2D customizations for easier viewer interpretation.

Treemaps

Treemaps may make it easy to compare data points due to their prominent colors. They can arrange large quantities of data in an orderly manner, allowing you to trace patterns. When using treemaps, try to simplify the data and your message to engage readers. You may use distinctive colors with these charts when putting the number of boxes needed.

Line charts

Line charts are ideal for handling large datasets. When using this type of chart, ensure your time intervals are consistent and placed correctly, preferably running from the left to the right part of your chart. If the audience zooms in when reading data beginning above zero, the information can become easier to understand, so ensure you zoom in on the y-axis whenever you present data with points above zero.

Read more: What Is a Line Graph? Definition and How To Create One

Dual-axis charts

A dual-axis chart has both the x- and y-axis and shows the relationship between three data points. You can choose one point based on continuous data and group the other by category. Consider picking contrasting shades and graphic styles for enhanced visibility and place the primary variable on the y-axis.

Area charts

An area chart may be an effective choice for a large database because it provides a maximum visualization of up to four data series. You can use the customized stacked area chart if you have multiple datasets in need of comparisons. Ensure that each aspect of your data is visible by making other areas transparent on the chart while emphasizing others with textures or colors.

Timeline infographics

A timeline infographic represents data over time. This feature can be useful for several purposes, including marketing content and presentations. When creating a timeline infographic, you may embellish the content using decorative shapes, premium fonts and different colors.

Choropleth maps

A choropleth map shows location-based data. It shows normalized data by shading specific areas, lines or points. Choropleth maps can help you find answers to your data questions, such as how certain percentages contrast by geographic characteristics.

Pyramids charts

You can divide pyramid charts, also known as triangle diagrams or charts, into horizontal sections in a hierarchy. Consider arranging these hierarchies either downward or upward, depending on the relationship they represent. You may also try to have minimum subcategories consistently organized in hierarchical order with clear labels.

Related: 8 Types of Organizational Charts

Reporting tables

You can place data represented in reporting tables in rows and columns with numbers aligned on the right side of the rows. The user defines the data to display. When using these tables, consider removing the grid lines or sending them in the background using a light color shade to keep the audience's focus on the data.

Numbered lists

Numbered lists are useful for demonstrating the order in textual data in an easy and understandable format. A numbered list is ideal for displaying a series of complete paragraphs or sentences. For instance, if the items you're organizing aren't phrases, you might consider using a numbered list instead of a bulleted or lettered list.

Scatter plots

Scatter plots offer a unique way of showing the relationship between your datasets. You may represent data in a scatter plot when working with easily observable patterns. These charts show connections in big datasets, making them ideal for different pairs of values.

Histograms

A histogram is a diagram with rectangles whose area corresponds to a variable's recurrence and whose width is equivalent to the category's interval. Histograms require preprocessed data to visualize them. This type of chart can be effective for representing the age demographic within regions or locations.

How to choose types of charts

There are plenty of strategies for choosing a chart style for your data visualization needs. Here are some steps you can take to find the right type of chart for you:

1. Determine your goal with your data

Start with a clear goal regarding the information you want to communicate. This can help you identify the ideal chart for your specific data. Examples of goals you may create are:

  • Inform your audience: You might use a simple approach to pass technical details across an individual data point.

  • Compare your data: Try to develop a goal that compares or shows similar points from the different parts of your data. You can also show further comparisons to the audience.

  • Demonstrate change in your charts: You may develop charts that show change over time and make it easy to derive conclusions.

  • Organize your charts: Consider arranging your charts to display order, patterns or ranks. An organized chart can be easy to interpret and add more credibility to your data.

  • Reveal data connections: Your goal may be to develop a chart that reveals relationships between your data points and ensures these data relationships correlate.

Read more: What Is Data Visualization: Definition, Types and Tools

2. Decide how you want to organize your data

Organization entails using the right tools to present data in an understandable and easily interpreted format. Consider your goals to decide on the ideal chart for your specific purpose. For example, you might decide to use a choropleth map for voter registration percentages across different states, since this type of chart is effective for displaying data for different locations. One way to inform your readers is to use big or bold text or titles, easily interpreted icons or symbols and bright colors.

3. Search for chart templates

You might save time by using data charts with readily available templates, mainly from online vendors. Although you may choose to format your own chart to meet your individual goals, a template can offer you a basic structure for your chart. You can also demonstrate consistency to your team members, coworkers or clients by creating default templates for charts.

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